For the next couple of weeks we will go a bit off course in discussing the church’s involvement with politics. I had been told by a local minister that politics did not belong in the church. I thought that was quite strange since the church had been involved with politics even in the founding of this nation. I found myself very disappointed and disillusioned because I had studied about just how important the church and religion was in the lives of our founders and in the lives of those who put this nation together. Then recently I came across some very interesting information that was produced by church sponsorship and it helped renew my faith in the role the church was intended to play in out society. The following is an outline of what I found.
Since the Church’s inception, Methodists have been actively involved in social and political matters in order to build a more peaceful and just world.
The people called Methodists have been actively involved in social and political matters from their founding in 18th century England. Methodists were among the primary advocates for the abolition of slavery across the British Empire, the organization of labor unions to protect workers from dangerous working conditions, the ending of the debtors prison system, and the creation of new systems of care for poor children. Given this heritage, Methodists have continued to advocate for other social or political issues since that time – i.e. women’s suffrage , to name a few.(https://www.umnews.org/en/news/methodists-crucial-in-fight-for-womens-vote), temperance, civil rights, health care and care for the environment, to name a few.
Today the United Methodist Social Creed (https://www.umc.org/en/content/our-social-creed) and Social Principles (https://umnews.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-why-do-we-have-social-principles-where-did-they-come-from) expresses the UMC commitment to fully participate in building a more peaceful and just world.
Should United Methodists be involved in Politics?
The United Methodist Church acknowledges that members are responsible to God for our social, economic, and political life. The Church regards political participation as the privilege and responsibility of citizens.
The Church asserts, “Scripture recognizes that faithfulness to God requires political engagement by the people of God.” Church-Government Relations (https://umc.org/en/content/book-of-resolutions-church-government-relations). “The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The Church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.” (https://www.umc.org/en/content/social-principles-the-political-community). United Methodists rely on the same world-wide social principles and resolutions for guidance about the interaction of church and politics. How the Church is engaged in politics varies across the regions where The United Methodist Church is present. Its response to the state will look quite different in the United States, the Philippines, Germany, Russia or Cote d’Ivoire.
What about separation of church and state?
The United Methodist Church also affirms an appropriate separation of church and state. (https://www.umc.org/en/content/social-principles-the-political-community#relations). United Methodists reject undue control or interference by either religious bodies or the state in the affairs of the other. “Separation of church and state means no organic union of the two, but it does permit interaction” (https://www.umc.org/en/content/social-principles-the-political-community#relations).
Does the UMC have a lobbying office in Washington DC?
The General Board of Church and Society (https://www.umcjustice.org), the church’s advocacy agency for issues of justice, equality, and peace has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City. Church and Society is dedicated to implementing the social principles by educating, equipping and organizing United Methodists to faithfully advocate for the Church’s positions. The activities of Church and Society are advocacy…not lobbying. The agency communicates the denomination’s position on more than 30 social issues with policymakers and church and national leaders, with the mission of transforming the world…not lobbying.
As I am prone to do I am going to divert my current discussion with information I have recently received. As I have previously commented, today the Christian churches are under attack by politicians who not only dislike the church, but in fact hate the church for the barrier some put up to delay the political search for power and control. Even still some pastors refuse to admit that this is happening and they are happy in not offending by avoiding the truth. Here is one pastor who will not sit back and let politicians run roughshod over his…God’s…church. Greg Fairrington is the pastor of Destiny Church in Rocklin, California…you might know. Like many houses of worship, Destiny Church went to an online model during what was believed to be the height of the COVID crisis. But Pastor Fairrington knew that online worship was not the New Testament model. So when California’s governor rolled back restrictions, Pastor Fairrington reopened the doors of his church. The church complied with the governor’s 25 percent capacity limitation to assure social distancing. In response, the governor reversed himself and dictated that the church, which has a capacity of 1,500, was limited to only 100 people indoors! It became crystal clear to Pastor Fairrington that the shutdown of America’s churches and synagogues was not really about the pandemic…or ‘pandamic’ as I refer to it. It was about imposing restrictions on churches and synagogues that were not being imposed on big-box stores, water parks, strip clubs and other entities. Like other officials across the country, California’s governor apparently believes that communities of faith are of little or no value. He could not be more wrong. In times of trouble, faith is the only answer to combat despair, suicide, drug addiction, unemployment, financial ruin, and the violent breakdown of civilized society. Faith is not the problem. It is the solution. The growing government persecution of churches, synagogues, religious ministries and individuals who live by faith is not only wrong…it is unconstitutional. The free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and following one’s conscience form the very foundation of our rights as Americans. Without them, we become subjects instead of citizens.
Next week we will get back to policies and programs of the Methodist Church…policies and programs that all church leaders should be well versed in.
– Bob Munsey
“Sudden, decisive moments in our lives become our measures of authenticity.” Dan Schaeffer